“Let the Little Children Come to Me”

May 9, 2023 | Stories from the Diocese

Let the Little Children 01

When All Saints Sharon Chapel in Northern Virginia launched its Catechesis of the Good Shepherd ministry in 2001, the church had only a few families with children. But Sharon Chapel felt called to begin this ministry and reach out to young families in the community – particularly young families just beginning their journey of faith – often prompted by the birth of a child.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a Christian formation program serving children from infancy, toddlerhood, through age 12, that brings parent and child together in an “Atrium” space for religious learning that is immersive and interactive – teaching children about the life of Christ, the Eucharist, and other sacraments and traditions in the church. It also equips parents to incorporate religious activities into daily life at home.

Since starting the program in 2001, it has grown from serving three families to more than 100 newcomers, and many more online through its weekday Parent Toddler evangelism and outreach and Shrine Mont Camps for all ages.  Once the pandemic hit, All Saints’ ministry partnered with local Episcopal parishes like St. George’s, Arlington, and other churches from around the U.S. All Saints received a surge of newcomers online, mostly parents in Northern Va., Md. and D.C., who wanted to nurture the spiritual lives of their children in this unique, holistic approach.

A Parent Toddler group serving toddlers 18-36 months was founded in 2009 to create cohorts of young families who could learn and enter deeply into faith alongside and through observation of their children.  Over the years, parents have grown in their appreciation of being in sacred space with their children, often traveling up to an hour to All Saints to experience the Montessori Atrium.

Most recently, the Lilly Endowment has awarded a $500,000 grant to the Center for Children and Theology in Washington, DC, in large part to support a pilot Parent Toddler program at All Saints. Funding will be directed to training, resource development, and forming cohorts of parishes interested in serving as satellite sites for pilot programs. Successful pilot programs would then be promoted for wider use and implementation throughout the church.

A Mustard Seed grant from the Diocese helped fund the evangelization and outreach portion of this work as its inception evolved from weekday and summer camps to training courses with participants from around the U.S. During the pandemic, All Saints expanded to include an international cohort.

In keeping with its charism of racial justice and reconciliation, a workshop on The Way of Love and Becoming Beloved Community with Children was presented by All Saints’ CGS Director, Davette Himes. The workshop provided a window into the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd as implemented at Sharon Chapel for toddlers through age 12.

The Rev. Sarah Colvin joined Sharon Chapel as Priest in Charge in December 2023 and is looking forward to supporting collaborations with other parishes to launch CGS programs. Colvin herself participated in CGS adult formation years ago at Sharon Chapel. Shortly after Colvin’s return, Sharon Chapel and St. Luke’s Wellington teamed up to host a Children’s Liturgy of the Light, a joint family service in April.

In June, All Saints will offer training on Parent Toddler facilitation and adult formation – both in-person and online. Level I training to serve 3-6 year olds will also be offered in July at St. Stephen’s, Richmond. An introductory monthly course will begin this fall at All Saints Sharon Chapel.  For information about CGS training, or to learn more about becoming a Fall 2023 pilot cohort for the Parent Toddler formation, contact Davette Himes at Sharon Chapel. cgs@sharonchapel.org.